Living the WELL Life


So Much to Be Thankful For - by Christina Pirello

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

It’s that time of year…the harvest is in; the abundance of the planet never more in evidence.  As summer days fade into memory, the cool crisp days remind us that the holiday season is close at hand.

It is during these gentle days, before the hectic holiday days are in full swing that we can take the time to reflect.  For me, these days are a little slower, a little sweeter.  I love to gather my loved ones around the table…and not just for the one day that tradition dictates we gather together and give thanks.

Now is the time.  We live in challenging and uncertain times.  If there was ever a moment to count our blessings, this is it.  So take a minute…look around and take notice of how well you are loved, how blessed your lives are, how abundant your days…and give thanks.  And feast…

Menu
Creamy Mushroom Soup
Golden Sweet Potato Biscuits
Artichoke Salad with Greens and Figs
Kabocha Squash with Wild Rice Stuffing
Maple Glazed Brussel Sprouts
Italian Nut Cookies
Streusel Topped Pumpkin Pie

Creamy Mushroom Soup
Nothing accents the delicate sweetness of the biscuits, nor kicks off a great feast, quite like a creamy, rich, yummy soup.  And this one is just amazing…biscuits or not…feast or not.

extra virgin olive oil
1-2 cloves fresh garlic, diced
1 yellow onion, diced
sea salt
2-3 Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled, diced
6-8 dried shiitake mushrooms, soaked in 1 cup until tender, thinly sliced (soaking water reserved)
10-12 ounces button mushrooms, brushed free of dirt, thinly sliced
¼ (one quarter) cup mirin or white wine
4 cups unsweetened almond milk
3 teaspoons sweet white miso
2-3 sprigs fresh parsley, finely minced

Place a small amount of oil, garlic and onion in a soup pot and turn heat to medium.  When the onions begin to sizzle, add a pinch of salt and sauté for 2-3 minutes.  Stir in potatoes, a pinch of salt and sauté for 2 minutes more.  Stir in shiitake and button mushrooms, a pinch of salt and sauté for 1 minute more.  Add shiitake soaking water, mirin and almond milk, cover and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to low and cook until mushrooms are quite tender, about 25 minutes.  Remove a small amount of hot broth and dissolve miso.  Stir back into soup and cook over very low heat, uncovered, for 3-4 minutes to activate the enzymes in the miso.  Serve garnished with fresh parsley.  Makes 4-5 servings.

Golden Sweet Potato Biscuits
Lusciously moist and delicately sweet, these biscuits will quickly become a tradition on your holiday table.

1 ¼ cups whole wheat pastry flour
½ (one half) cup semolina flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
generous pinch sea salt
generous pinch ground cinnamon
3-4 tablespoons light olive oil
1/3 cup unsweetened apple juice
1 cup, smoothly mashed, cooked sweet potato
2 tablespoons Suzanne’s Specialties Maple Rice Nectar or maple syrup
1/3 cup coarsely chopped pecan pieces

Preheat oven to 375 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Combine flours, baking powder and soda, salt and cinnamon in a mixing bowl and whisk briskly.  Cut in oil with a fork or pastry cutter to form the texture of wet sand.  Add the apple juice, sweet potato and rice syrup, mixing to form a soft dough.  Fold in pecans, working to incorporate them into the dough. 

Turn the dough onto a floured surface and knead in just enough flour so the dough loses its stickiness.  With floured hands, press the dough into a 2/3-inch thick rectangle.  Using a glass or cookie cutter, cut the dough into 16 biscuits, re-forming dough as needed to use it all.  (Note: when cutting the biscuits, do not turn the cutter, simply press straight down into the dough.  Turning will remove air from the biscuits, leaving them heavy).  Arrange cut biscuits on lined sheet about an inch apart.  Bake 15-18 minutes or until the biscuits puff slightly and they spring back to the touch (or a toothpick inserted comes out clean).  Transfer to a serving plate and serve hot.  Makes about 16 biscuits.

Artichoke Salad with Greens and Figs
A more festive and elegant salad is not to be had.  Light and fresh, but rich enough to be decadent, this is a symphony of flavors and textures that makes any occasion just a bit more special.

extra virgin olive oil
2-3 cloves fresh garlic, thinly sliced
1 red onion, thin half moon slices
sea salt
8-10 marinated artichoke hearts, split in half lengthwise
1 red pepper, roasted over an open flame, peeled, seeded, sliced into thin ribbons

dressing
juice of 2 limes
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons umeboshi vinegar
2 teaspoons Suzanne’s Specialties Maple Rice Nectar or maple syrup
generous pinch black pepper

2 bunches watercress, stem tips trimmed, left whole
8-10 fresh figs, split lengthwise*
2-3 fresh scallions, thinly sliced on the diagonal

Place a small amount of oil, garlic and onion in a skillet and turn heat to medium.  When the onions begin to sizzle, add a pinch of salt and sauté for 1 minute.  Stir in artichoke hearts and red pepper ribbons and sauté just until heated through, about 2 minutes more. 

Prepare the dressing by whisking together lime juice, oil, ume vinegar and rice syrup, adjusting seasonings to taste.  To plate the dressing, arrange watercress on a platter, with figs around the rim.  Spoon sautéed artichoke heart mixture over the top and drizzle lightly with dressing, serving the balance of the dressing on the side for those who want to use more.  Sprinkle with scallions and serve immediately after dressing.  Makes 5-6 servings.  *You may use any fresh seasonal fruit for this salad if you can’t get fresh figs.

Kabocha Squash with Wild Rice Stuffing
Ah, finally, the centerpiece dish of the feast.  It seems that tradition dictates that something be “stuffed,” so some very clever vegetarians came up with the idea of baking the stuffing in a hearty, sweet winter squash.  Since then, many variations on the theme have emerged, each more delicious.  Here’s one of mine.

2 medium kabocha squash, tops removed jack-o-lantern style, seeds removed
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons brown rice syrup or honey
sea salt
 
stuffing
¾ (three quarters) cup wild rice, rinsed very well
1 ½  (one half) cups spring or filtered water
sea salt
extra virgin olive oil
2-3 cloves fresh garlic, finely minced
1 red onion, finely diced
1-2 stalks celery, diced
8 ounces tempeh, coarsely crumbled
½ (one half) teaspoon dried basil
½ (one half) cup pine nuts
½ (one half) cup dry white wine
2-3 cups firmly packed, shredded whole grain, sourdough bread
1-2 cups fresh orange juice

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  After hollowing squash, whisk together oil, barley malt and a pinch of salt.  Using your fingers, rub the mixture over the outsides and insides of the squash.  Place them in a baking dish, replacing the caps.  Add water to accumulate about one half-inch.  Cover with foil and bake until the squash pierces easily with a fork, but is still firm, about 45 minutes. 

While the squash bakes, make the stuffing.  Place wild rice and water in a heavy pot and bring to a boil.  Add a pinch of salt, cover, reduce heat to low and cook until all liquid has been absorbed and rice is tender, about 35 minutes.  Set aside.

Place a small amount of oil, garlic, and onion in a skillet and turn heat to medium.  When the onions begin to sizzle, add a pinch of salt and sauté for 2-3 minutes.  Stir in celery and sauté for 1 minute.  Stir in tempeh and dried basil and sauté until tempeh begins to brown, about 5 minutes.  Add pine nuts, wine and season to taste with salt.  Cover and cook for 5-7 minutes.  Remove cover and cook until all liquid has been absorbed. 

Place bread in a mixing bowl and add cooked rice, sautéed vegetables and tempeh.  Slowly add orange juice, mixing well until a soft stuffing forms.  Don’t make it too wet. 

Stuff each squash abundantly and replace in baking dish.  Lay caps in baking dish next to squash, not on top.  Cover with foil and bake until squash is quite tender, 35 minutes to one hour, depending on the size of the squash.  Remove from oven and allow squash to cool for about 10 minutes before transferring to a serving platter.  Makes 8-10 servings.
Note:  Extra stuffing can be pressed into an oiled baking dish and cooked, covered for 35-40 minutes.  Remove cover and brown the top before serving. 

Maple Glazed Brussels Sprouts
It seems that Thanksgiving tradition calls for sweetly glazed vegetables and these will never disappoint.

2 pounds Brussels sprouts, tips trimmed, crosses cut into the bottoms of each
2 red onions, thick wedges
2-3 sweet potatoes, split lengthwise, ½-inch thick half moons
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
sea salt
grated zest of 2 lemons
½ (one half) cup dry white wine
3 tablespoons Suzanne’s Specialties Maple Rice Nectar or maple syrup
juice of ½ lemon
2-3 sprigs fresh parsley, finely minced

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Place all the vegetables in a mixing bowl and add oil, a generous sprinkling of salt, lemon zest, wine and rice syrup.  Mix well to coat.  Arrange vegetables in a large baking dish, avoiding overlap.  Cover with foil and bake until vegetables are tender, about 45 minutes.  Remove cover and continue baking until vegetables are browned and liquid has turned to a syrup, 10-15 minutes more.  Remove from heat and squeeze lemon juice over top.  Sprinkle with parsley and toss gently to coat.  Serve hot.  Makes 6-8 servings. 

Italian Nut Cookies
No casual party would be complete without cozy, homey cookies on the buffet.  My mother used to make these classics for impromptu gatherings where the atmosphere was more relaxed.  Here’s my take on her recipe.

2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
½ (one half) cup semolina flour
½ (one half) teaspoon ground cinnamon
pinch sea salt
1/3 (one third) cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ (one half) cup light olive oil
½ (one half) cup brown rice syrup
½ (one half)-1 cup unsweetened almond milk
½ (one half) cup coarsely chopped pecans
¼  (one quarter) cup coarsely chopped walnuts

chocolate glaze
¼ (one quarter) cup unsweetened almond milk
3 tablespoons brown rice syrup
1 cup non-dairy, grain- sweetened chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment.  Whisk together flour, semolina, cinnamon, salt, cocoa powder and baking powder.  Mix in oil and rice syrup.  Slowly add Eden Blend to create a soft, formable dough.  Fold in nuts.  Using moist hands, form dough into 1-inch spheres and arrange on baking sheet. 

Bake until cookies are just firm, but still slightly soft, 18-20 minutes.  Allow to cool for 2-3 minutes on baking sheet.  Transfer to a wire rack and cool completely.  Make the glaze by placing Eden Blend and rice syrup in a small saucepan and bringing to a high boil.  Pour over chocolate chips and whisk to form a smooth, satin-like glaze. 

Slip a piece of parchment paper under the rack of cookies.  Spoon glaze over each one, letting the glaze run over the sides.  Allow to stand, undisturbed, until glaze begins to set.  Transfer to a serving platter.  Makes about 24 cookies.  Note:  These cookies will keep, in a sealed container for several days.

Streusel Topped Pumpkin Pie
What’s an autumn celebration without pumpkin pie?  Not the same, truly.  Give this one a try for a twist on a traditional favorite.

2 cups pureed pumpkin (cooked fresh or unsweetened canned pumpkin)
pinch sea salt
2 cups unsweetened almond milk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
½ (one half) cup brown rice syrup
generous pinch ground cinnamon
scant pinch allspice
3 tablespoons agar flakes
2 tablespoons arrowroot, dissolved in small amount cold water

pie crust
1 ½ (one half) cups whole wheat pastry flour
pinch sea salt
¼ cup avocado or light olive oil
spring or filtered water

streusel topping
½ (one half) cup whole wheat pastry flour
pinch sea salt
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
½ (one half) cup finely chopped pecans or almond meal
2 tablespoons avocado or light olive oil
3-4 tablespoons brown rice syrup

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and lightly oil a deep-dish glass pie plate.  Place all filling ingredients, except arrowroot, in a saucepan and place over low heat.  Cook, whisking frequently, until agar is dissolved, about 20 minutes.  When the agar is dissolved, whisk in arrowroot mixture and cook, stirring, until the mixture thickens, about 3 minutes.  Set aside.

Make the crust by combining flour and salt in a mixing bowl.  Cut in oil with a fork or pastry cutter to create the texture of wet sand.  Slowly add water, mixing until dough gathers into a cohesive ball.  Roll out between 2 sheets of parchment, creating a thin round that is about an inch larger than the pie plate.  Transfer piecrust to pie plate and fit into crevices without stretching, allowing excess to hang over the edges.  Fold excess crust up over the rim and using your fingers, crimp into a decorative edge.  Pierce in several places with a fork and bake for 12 minutes.  Remove from oven and cool to room temperature.

Spoon filling evenly into crust and set aside.  Make the streusel by combining flour, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg in a mixing bowl.  Fold in pecans, oil and rice syrup and mix until a crumbly mixture forms.   Sprinkle generously over the pumpkin filling, covering completely. 

Place the pie on a baking sheet and cover loosely with foil.  Bake for 25 minutes.  Remove cover and bake for another 30-35 minutes, until the edges of the filling are set and the topping is browned and crunchy.  Transfer pie to a cooling rack and allow to stand for 15-30 minutes before slicing.  Makes 8-10 servings.  Note: For a buffet table, I love to make this recipe in a 9 x 13 baking pan and create small pumpkin pie squares…it is easier to serve and so easy for the guests to handle.

 

 



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